Slow wheels of justice: Bar brawl turns deadly, suspect still free
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
BENSON, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - The justice system is not known for moving at lightning speed. But even by that standard, this story is remarkable. One night outside Benson, a bar fight spiraled out of control. A man died. Investigators rushed to the scene. There, the rush ended. The killing happened in 2011. Now, in 2013, the case has yet to go to trial.
December 13, 2011: when the story begins. A night out a local bar in Mescal in just minutes turned deadly.
"I kept asking her what's wrong what's wrong," said Phyllis Comaduran. "She couldn't say. I said is something wrong with Steven? She said, yes."
Phyllis remembers that call well. Any mother would. It's the night she learned that Steven, her only son was dead.
"It's difficult because he's gone," said Phyllis. "I can't replace him."
But how did a few beers and some games of pool lead to Steven's grisly death down a dark road. The path to that answer starts in this never before seen surveillance tape from inside the Mescal Bar and Grill. Jenny, seen wearing a pink hoodie, walks in. Witnesses tell deputies that Shanda, Steven's girlfriend, tells her she has to leave the family bar. Seconds later, a fight breaks out. Shanda goes flying. Steven, seen in the blue hoodie, engages too. The fight spills into the parking lot where Mickey Wahl, Shanda's ex-boyfriend and the suspect in this case is waiting.
"Mickey Wahl was out there next to his truck," said Phyllis. "I guess he was out there urinating."
No cameras catch what happens next. Different witness accounts inside Cochise County Sheriff's reports tell slightly different stories. Steven approaches Mickey. Some say words are exchanged. Others say punches fly.
"Steven's arms were pulled into the window and he rolled his arms up," says Phyllis.
According to police reports, Mickey speeds away down Cherokee. Steven hangs on, his arms stuck in the window.
"He kept going faster," says Albert Comaduran, Steven's father. "His feet were actually dragging."
About 100 yards later, deputies believe Mickey lowered the window and let Steven go.
"So when he fell out, the dually ran over his head and killed him instantly," said Albert. "The guy just kept going. Didn't even hit the brakes. He got home and posted it on Facebook."
The following post appeared on Mickey's Facebook profile:
Got punched in the face by Steven C, sorry about your bad luck you ****, bad mistake son.
By the time that post went live, Steven was dead. That was more than 365 days ago. Today, a roadside memorial, the only marker that such a tragedy happened here remains.
Mickey has spent less than a handful of days behind bars. He's still out, has been and the family wants to know why.
"He got to spend the holidays with his children," said Phyllis. "My son didn't. His children got to be with him, mine didn't."
A year later and this case has yet to go to trial. Email after emails express the family's concerns with how prosecutors have handled the case. It got so bad, the family requested a new prosecutor. The defense requested a new judge. All of it has made time drag on for the family.
"Does this make sense to you?" asked 9OYS investigator Marcelino Benito. "Makes no sense at all," replied Albert. "It's like they're trying to protect him. They [County Attorney's Office] keep losing papers. They keep delaying it. And waiting for this and that. They try to blame the Sheriff's Department."
So 9OYS went to Cochise County to see what the Sheriff's Department had to say about all this. Why had it taken 8 months to wrap up the investigation? That question ultimately never answered by the Sheriff's Department, but they did release a statement.
Investigators tell 9OYS: "Both the Sheriff's Office and the County Attorney are working closely together in this case in the best interest of the victim."
But 9OYS dug deeper and found the County Attorney didn't receive the final investigation until mid-August 2012. It took five months to get blood and urine samples back from a Phoenix lab.
The County Attorney's Office didn't want to answer our questions on camera either, but they did talk to 9OYS over the phone. They call this case a complex, complicated one, that took time.
Cochise County Attorney Ed Rhineheimer said via phone, "We didn't want to take any action until we had a completed investigation."
"If this doesn't go to trial, some thing's not right down there," said Albert.
The County Attorney's decision to wait paid off. A grand jury indicted Mickey in mid-November for manslaughter and negligent homicide. Still the County Attorney knows the Comadurans have been frustrated with his office. To that he says this, "If anyone in our office gave the family any reason to believe we don't care about this case, that's regrettable and I would certainly apologize for it."
"You see this stuff on the news and you can turn the channel," said Phyllis. "We can't turn the channel. We have to live it. We can't just turn it off. This will always be with us."
The waiting set to continue. It's up to a jury to decide how the story ends.
The defense wants to throw out the indictment. If the judge denies that motion, a trial should finally get underway by April 30th. We'll keep you posted.